Despite year-round debuts and the rise of streaming, September is still when the TV year begins, as the networks' big new shows get splashy debuts. Here are the shows we're looking forward to this fall, plus some you should skip.
Britton Peele and Leslie Snyder contributed to this preview.
NBC, premieres Sept. 21
What it's about: A woman is found zipped into a duffel bag in the middle of Times Square, her body covered in mysterious tattoos -- including one with the name of an FBI special agent.
First impression: It's well-paced, and Jaimie Alexander is exciting to watch as Jane Doe. The only real flaw in the pilot is Sullivan Stapleton, who is stilted as agent Kurt Weller. If he can settle into this role and dial down the Horatio Caine vibe, this show has tons of potential.
CBS, premieres Sept. 30
What it's about: Life inside the maelstrom of the busiest emergency room in the country, the fictional Angels Memorial Hospital Los Angeles. Marcia Gay Harden stars as Dr. Leane Rorish, an excellent ER physician who's trying to cope with her job after a tragedy in her life.
First impression: It's everything you'd expect from a hospital drama — hectic, very bloody, full of catastrophes and victories large and small. It feels grittier than Grey's Anatomy, and (in the pilot at least) less dependent on the characters' romantic entanglements. It doesn't offer much else to set it apart from Grey's or ER, but it might not need to.
Fox, premieres Sept. 29
What it's about: Rob Lowe is Dean Sanderson, an actor who just ended his run as TV lawyer the Grinder. He returns to his hometown to because he thinks he can help his younger brother, who is an actual lawyer but has none of the courtroom gravitas of the Grinder.
First impression: You know what's a slam dunk? Asking Rob Lowe to play an entitled actor who takes himself too seriously. His character oozes smarmy corniness, and everyone around him eats it up -- with the exception of his frustrated younger brother (Fred Savage). Lowe and Savage have enough comic chemistry to give this show a lot of potential.
ABC, premieres Sept. 22
What it's about: The Muppets gang works together on the set of Miss Piggy's talk show, Up Late with Miss Piggy.
First impression: The show follows (and parodies) the handheld-documentary format, a la The Office and Modern Family, with a side of less-edgy 30 Rock. Cameras capture the gang as they go about trying to produce the show together. The pilot has plenty of funny moments, and guest star Elizabeth Banks is predictably great. The question is whether the formula will work beyond a few episodes.
ABC, premieres Sept. 27
What it's about: A talented group of FBI recruits enter the famous training academy and try to make it through the rigorous training. The show flashes both back and forward, where we learn that one of these recruits is suspected in a major terror plot.
First impression: At first glance it seems fairly predictable, like Rookie Blue goes to the FBI. But the pilot takes some unexpected twists, and by the end it's clear that there is more to this storyline than green FBI trainees trying to figure out their lives. There's a big conspiracy afoot centered on the terror attack, and it left me wanting to fire up another episode to see what's going on. Perhaps the best thing about Quantico: It introduces ultra-talented Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra to a broad American audience.
Fox, premieres Sept. 22
What it's about: Ryan Murphy, creator of both Glee and American Horror Story, takes us inside the college sorority from hell, where mean girls rule and a serial killer is stalking the campus.
First impression: The comparisons to both Glee and AHS are inevitable, but for my money Scream Queens is like a bloodier and wittier Pretty Little Liars. Emma Roberts, as the sorority's chief mean girl, is bringing the Regina George heat in a way that's delightful to watch. This show won't be for everyone. It's campy and ridiculous, and not frightening enough to appeal to true horror fans. But if comedy with a side of gore sounds like something you'd be into, give it a chance.
CBS, premieres Oct. 26
What it's about: Superman wasn't the only child saved from Krypton. His cousin, Kara Zor-El, landed on Earth after years of being suspended in time. She wakes to a world in which the baby she knew is now a legend to a whole planet, and she wonders if the world needs another superhero like her.
First impression: The pilot is an accelerated origin story, which is to the show's benefit. The general overview (which should be more or less familiar to you if you've seen Man of Steel) is out of the way quick, and the other basics (like picking a superhero outfit) are tackled faster than a speeding bullet. This lets us dive right into getting to know Melissa Benoist's Kara, who feels much more human that her cousin Clark. Kara is strong but flawed in ways that should continue to make for an interesting series.
ABC, premieres Oct. 2
What it's about: Ken Jeong -- an actual physician before his comedy career took off -- stars as a doctor who's trying to manage his professional and family lives.
First impression: There aren't many laughs to be found, and Jeong is distractingly manic. His brand of medicine is far better in small doses.
Fox, premieres Sept. 29
What it's about: John Stamos is womanizing restaurateur Jimmy, who learns that he has not only a 20-something son he didn't know about, but a granddaughter as well. The show follows the family's attempts to navigate their newly complicated lives.
First impression: There are some genuinely sweet moments, and Stamos plays his role with charm. But for a comedy, the show's not particularly funny.
NBC, premieres Sept. 24
What it's about: A Las Vegas security expert and former sniper (Philip Winchester) becomes tangled up in a mysterious syndicate that predicts crimes before they happen, and bets on them. Because Las Vegas, I guess?
First impression: Despite some exciting moments, the plot felt bloated and unnecessarily convoluted. The idea is intriguing -- the implications of our overly wired society, being watched all the time by Big Brother elements. But another show, CBS' Person of Interest, is already handling these same issues far more deftly. Catch up with it on Netflix instead.
Fox, premieres Sept. 23
What it's about: Morris Chestnut is Dr. Beaumont Rosewood, a private pathologist (that's a thing?) who annoys Miami police as he helps them solve murders, whether they want him around or not.
First impression: The world does not need another procedural built around oil-and-water partners with a "will they or won't they?" dynamic. Chestnut is better than this show's writing and pacing, and so is most of the rest of the cast.
Blood & Oil
ABC, premieres Sept. 27
What it's about: A young married couple chases their dreams in North Dakota oil country, and their lives intersect with a billionaire tycoon (a menacing Don Johnson).
First impression: Blood & Oil has a Dallas vibe, both because of the subject matter (oil riches) and because it has similar elements of soapy melodrama. Dallas' Chace Crawford is fairly compelling as a young entrepreneur seeking fortune. But to put it bluntly, the pilot was boring.
Life in Pieces
CBS, premieres Sept. 21
What it's about: CBS is clearly trying to get some of that Modern Family magic with this series about one extended family, divided into four short stories each week. James Brolin and Dianne Wiest are John and Joan Short, and the show follows them and the families of their three adult children Greg (Colin Hanks), Heather (Betsy Brandt, Breaking Bad) and Matt (Thomas Sadoski, The Newsroom).
First impression: The best thing Life in Pieces has going for it is its cast. Zoe Lister Jones in particular sparkles as Greg's wife, Jen. But the single-camera style and pacing of the show make it seem like it's striving for authenticity that just isn't there. The show has its moments, but it camps out too long in the land of wacky banter. Watching it, the feeling you get is, "No one actually talks like this to each other."
CBS, premieres Sept. 22
What it's about: An adaptation of the 2011 feature film, Limitless stars Jake McDorman as Brian Finch, an underachieving 20-something dude who is introduced to a drug called NZT that makes him capable of previously impossible intellectual feats.
First impression: The pilot is fast-paced and an easy watch, but there's not enough there to bring you back for more. FBI agent Rebecca Harris (Jennifer Carpenter, Dexter) convinces Finch to use his NZT-fueled super brain to help solve cases. It sets up the show to go in a crime-procedural direction, and that's well-trodden ground. Bradley Cooper cameos help, but Limitless will need to do more to grab viewers.
Fox, premieres Sept. 21
What it's about: Picking up years after the short story and blockbuster film of the same name, Minority Report follows Dash, one of the three psychic "Precog" siblings that were used to predict murders and stop them before they happened. The Pre-crime program has long been shut down, but Dash is still seeing visions of murder - and he's decided to start doing something about them.
First impression: The pilot spends quite a bit of time saying, "Look at this advanced technology! It's the future!" There are selfie drones, predictions of future events and Iggy Azalea is considered an "oldie." When it's done patting itself on the back for its CG, though, the show has promise as a detective show with some sci-fi twists. The pilot was entertaining, but we'll have to see if it can keep a good episode-to-episode pace and if the "big picture" story has any draw.